Learn more about the sour orange — including a recipe for the tart fruit — and volunteer for this week's annual harvest
Unsuspecting students who hope to snag a sweet snack off one of Arizona State University’s many orange trees are in for a tart surprise: The trees on the Tempe campus bear sour oranges, or Sevilles.
So what’s the point of a sour orange? It turns out they have a long history and a bright future.
Originating in Southeast Asia, the oranges made their way into Arabia in the ninth century and eventually to the Spanish region of Seville, which gave them their present-day nameOther names include naranja ácida, naranji, melangolo, khatta and soap orange. To the English Tudors the oranges were “golden apples,” a luxury in British winters..
For 500 years the Seville orange — which is used in savory dishes (see recipe below) and marmalades — was the only orange found in Europe, and it was the first one introduced to the New World by the Spanish. It can still be found in Everglade hammocks today.
Eventually the sour orange made its way to Arizona and to the Tempe campus.
“We don’t know exactly when they were planted,” said ASU ground services program coordinator Deborah Thirkhill. “They were very popular in the ’50s and ’60s when they were planted all around the city of Phoenix and on campus.”
Today, the tart fruit is part of a sustainability initiative. Each year, Thirkhill and a small army of students and community volunteers take part in a harvest of 5 to 6 tons of oranges from all the trees on the Tempe campus. The harvest is a partnership between ASU Grounds Services, Aramark and Sun Orchard, which donates juicing of the sour oranges.
This year’s event is Feb. 3–5, and volunteers can sign up here.
The harvested oranges are turned into 400 gallons of juice, which Aramark chefs turn into innovative dishes and desserts available at Engrained at the Memorial Union.